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This Maybe An Odd Question But ... (1 Viewer)

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TheMightyAz

Mentor
I remember someone mentioning on here a while back about how some editors have a quota for the amount of 'was' they'll allow per page. I think I'm remembering that right. I believe it was two or three? I just wondered if there's a similar quota for the word 'but'?

No example provided.
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
I don't know. But I've seen work be edited where they adhered restrictively to this criteria. It was like an abbatoir on Carnage Night.
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
You mean with the word 'was'?
Yes, that was the one that came to mind. "Not" was another one. I didn't see it with "but" so much, --->>but<<--- ;) I think any sort of formulaic limit like this is best applied as a rule of thumb, rather than something quota-able.
 

Tettsuo

WF Veterans
This seems like a totally situational issue. Having a quote for a word seems silly to me. If I needed to write 'was' twenty times on a page... then that's what I needed to do.

If an editor of mine asked me to cut the number of time I used 'was' without a valid reason (because it's my quote isn't a valid reason) it would be that editor who gets cut.
 

Megan Pearson

Senior Member
Sounds subjective. Maybe the editor has an anti-'but/was' fetish? I've heard of 'that' being on the chopping block, too.

When I turned in my thesis, Turabian (Chicago style manual) had a list of words to watch out for, so some of it might depend on what you're writing & for whom.

Some of it's the sound. My husband always picks up when I use too many of the same kind of prepositions (i.e., 'of'). So I go through my papers with the find feature & change it up a bit. Gives it more variety so, hopefully, the reader won't grow bored.

Before I come to the point in my fiction where I hire an editor, I plan on doing the same thing, maybe find an AP style guide & run through their dead word list. (But before then, who cares?)
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Sounds subjective. Maybe the editor has an anti-'but/was' fetish? I've heard of 'that' being on the chopping block, too.

When I turned in my thesis, Turabian (Chicago style manual) had a list of words to watch out for, so some of it might depend on what you're writing & for whom.

Some of it's the sound. My husband always picks up when I use too many of the same kind of prepositions (i.e., 'of'). So I go through my papers with the find feature & change it up a bit. Gives it more variety so, hopefully, the reader won't grow bored.

Before I come to the point in my fiction where I hire an editor, I plan on doing the same thing, maybe find an AP style guide & run through their dead word list. (But before then, who cares?)
Repeating the same thing is habit forming. For me at least, it's best to iron out the potential pitfalls so I can form 'good' habits.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Seems very odd to have a quota for this sort of thing, surely it's dependent on context?
Not really. Az may be remembering a post of mine. I found the reference on a major Agency site. They have an entire page about "copula spiders" (linking verbs--most often 'to be' and its various conjugations). If they find them in your submitted work, you're rejected. The theory is that too many linking verbs lead to too much passive voice, which may lead to flat prose.

It IS true that eliminating all the copulas you can will produce more active and colorful prose. I wrote most of a chapter one time without using any at all, and that section of the book pops. It also helped me figure out how to eliminate using them extraneously.

"But" would be an entirely different subject, as that pertains to either overworked words, or repetitive words. With a little research, I found a blog discussing better ways to use "but", but no discussion of chronic overuse.
 

Phil Istine

WF Veterans
I once had a friend who said 'After "but" comes bullshit,' so I formed a habit of using words like however, still, yet, though etc., all of which can replace but.
As far as 'was' is concerned, overuse of the verb 'to be' can leave prose looking flat, but it's not difficult to write around most of them. 'To go' and 'got/get' can be pet hates too. I've had to train myself away from 'even'.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Is this something you can find out beforehand? I.e., finding out what style guide they use, or what the publisher's policies are?
Any agency or publishers I've looked into generally have a page on their site with a few rules. It's more likely to specify formatting rather than content. I suppose in the one case they'd just had a batch of submissions was'ing their way through every sentence, and frustration boiled over. LOL
 

Turnbull

Senior Member
Ah, I see. It's avoiding the whole, "was sweeping", "was mixing", "was leaning to the side" type of writing. As an objective quota, I think it's a bit irrational, but avoiding this type of writing is generally a good idea.
 
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